Week 14 Preview: Rivalries and High Stakes

November 22, 2017 by Dave Congrove

It's the final week of the regular season for the 9 conferences that stage championship games, with a couple of exceptions. Florida State, long out of the ACC Atlantic race, has a make-up game with Louisiana-Monroe next week, and FIU hosts UMass next Saturday in a game which was added to replace the Minutemen's lost game at USF as a result of Hurricane Irma.

Conference championship games are set in the ACC, Big Ten, Conference USA, and Mountain West. We'll find out this week who will win the American Conference 's East division, both MAC divisions, the PAC-12 North and the SEC Western division. We'll also find out who Oklahoma's opponent will be in the Big 12.

The AAC has Memphis awaiting the winner of the UCF-USF War On I-4 on Friday. The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com have the Golden Knights favored by 3.42 points.

TCU (6-2) is the most likely opponent for Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game as the Horned Frogs are the only other Big 12 team with fewer than 3 conference losses. TCU is a 23.13-point pick over Baylor at home on Friday. An upset loss could create as much as a 5-team tie, but the Horned Frogs would own nearly all of the tie-breaker scenarios (either by record against the tied teams, or head-to-head win).

The MAC is the only conference where the week began with neither division settled, but Akron clinched the East last night with a 24-14 win over Kent State. In the West, Toledo and Northern Illinois are each 6-1 with the Rockets holding the head-to-head advantage, thus Toledo is in with a win at home vs. Western Michigan this Friday (11:30 a.m. ET), or a Northern Illinois loss at Central Michigan at Noon ET on Friday if Toledo loses. The computer picks Toledo over WMU by 7.20 and has Northern Illinois as a 0.61-point underdog at the Chips.

In the PAC-12, USC has the South title secured and Washington State controls its own destiny for the North title. A win at Washington on Saturday puts the Cougars in. Stanford gets in if Washington State loses. Washington is out because Stanford owns the tie-breaking head-to-head win over the Huskies. The computer points to Stanford taking the other spot as it favors the Huskies by 8.56 points over the Cougars. Stanford is a 4.79-point computer pick in a non-conference game with Notre Dame.

The SEC has Georgia awaiting the winner of the Auburn-Alabama game on Saturday. The computer favors the Tide by 4.56 at Auburn on Saturday.

These are the games that we know are set:
ACC: Miami (FL) vs. Clemson
Big Ten: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
Conference USA: North Texas at FAU
MWC: Boise State vs. Fresno State.

Rivalry Week

It would be tough for any rivalry week to match this one when it comes to high stakes.

The Alabama-Auburn game pits the College Football Playoff Selection Committee's No. 1 team ('Bama) against its No. 7 team (Auburn). Not only is an SEC Championship slot at stake, but the Tigers could still play their way into a Final Four slot.

Ohio State must win-out as the Buckeyes, like Auburn, already have 2 losses. How does Ohio State get in to the playoff? The best scenario would be an Alabama win over Auburn and a Clemson loss to Miami. Ohio State is favored by 12.67 points to beat Michigan on Saturday, and is currently a a 4.53-point favorite to defeat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game.

Wisconsin in the somewhat enviable position of being ranked 5th by the committee. The Badgers must remain undefeated by taking care of business against Minnesota on Saturday, and upsetting Ohio State next week. Wisconsin is favored by a whopping 17.98 points at the Golden Gophers. The biggest road block for Wisconsin is the entire current top 4. If 'Bama wins out, Clemson beats Miami in a close game, and Oklahoma wins out, the top four is likely staying put.

Georgia is a 5.06-point pick at Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Bulldogs aren't locked out of the playoff, but getting in won't be easy since a 2-loss Auburn sits in front of the 1-loss 'Dawgs because of the blowout head-to-head win earlier this month.

Clemson's path to the Final Four is easy. As the current No. 3 team in the playoff committee rankings, the Tigers must beat South Carolina on Saturday, and knock off Miami in the ACC Championship game. Clemson is favored by 13.41 points over the Gamecocks in Columbia.

Oklahoma's fate is similar to Clemson's - just win, baby. The Sooners are a huge 19.39-point home pick over West Virginia on Saturday and are currently favored by at least 5 over any team they could face in the Big 12 Championship, presumably TCU.  An Oklahoma loss, this week or next, leaves the Big 12 out in the cold as the Horned Frogs are ranked 12th by the committee and sit too far back in the pecking order to make up that much distance.

Though it's not a rivalry game, Miami is a 13.27-point favorite on Friday over a Pittsburgh team that is 4-7, playing at home, and will be treating this like it's their bowl game. The 'Canes must win this week to ensure that they stay in the top 4 in case of a loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship.

Notre Dame visits Stanford as a 4.79-point computer underdog on Saturday. But if Notre Dame wins, and does so convincingly, the team with the toughest schedule in the nation will get some consideration. Still, the Irish will need all the right dominoes to fall as that 41-8 loss at Miami haunts any conversation involving the young men from South Bend.


98 FBS teams played 98 games vs. FCS members this year, down substantially from the 110 FBS schools that played 113 games vs. FCS squads last year. FBS teams finished 89-9 (.908) vs. the FCS this season, and are now 1,219-117 (.912) since 2003.

These are the FCS victories in 2017:
September 23: Western Illinois 52, Coastal Carolina 10
September 16: North Carolina A&T 35, Charlotte 31
September 16: Idaho State 30, Nevada 28
September 9: South Dakota 35. Bowling Green 27
September 9: New Hampshire 22, Georgia Southern 12
September 2: Liberty 48, Baylor 45
September 2: Howard 43, UNLV 40
September 2: James Madison 34, East Carolina 14
August 31: Tennessee State 17, Georgia State 10.


Alabama - Won 39 straight regular season nonconference games (FBS longest). Won 18 straight home games (FBS longest). Won 14 straight road games (FBS second-longest). Won 24 straight conference games (FBS longest). Visits Auburn on Saturday.

Oklahoma - Won 16 straight road games (FBS longest). Hosts West Virginia on Saturday.

Miami (Fla.) - Won 15 straight overall (FBS longest). Visits Pittsburgh on Friday.

UTEP - Lost 11 straight overall (FBS longest). Visits UAB on Saturday.

Ball State - Lost 13 straight conference games (FBS longest). Lost 28-7 vs. Miami (O.) on Tuesday.

Kansas - Lost 45 straight road games (FBS longest). Visits Oklahoma State on Saturday.